Mixed emotions grip Barcelona fans as Lewandowski presented exactly 1 year after Messi's departure
Prolific striker Robert Lewandowski was presented as Barcelona's new No.9, exactly one year after the Catalan club officially announced the departure of the legendary Lionel Messi.
On August 5, 2021, Barcelona fans witnessed perhaps one of the saddest days in the Catalan club's history. The team's legendary striker Lionel Messi left Camp Nou due to the La Liga giant's financial challenges to join Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) as a free agent.
After several weeks of negotiations, Barcelona finally notified their finest player that they could not extend his contract. At a farewell press conference three days later, Messi acknowledged that he was surprised.
"It is the most difficult moment of my sporting career. When they told me, I was frozen. It was a cold shower. I've had hard and difficult moments, but this... I feel very sad. I didn't expect it. I feel sadness. I'm still coming to terms with it. I don't know about Barcelona, but I did everything I could to continue. I lowered my salary by half. I wanted to stay," the Argentine talisman said.
"Last year, I had my mind made up, but not this year. And nobody asked me for anything else. It couldn't be done. It was all arranged, but because of an issue with La Liga, it wasn't done. The club has a very big debt and doesn't want to go further into debt," Messi added.
Barcelona was unable to continue due to stringent economic constraints. La Liga would not permit it because the math didn't work. Barcelona's star player, who spent his whole professional career with the club and won 35 titles there, had to say farewell. Their darkest fears came true.
Today much has changed for both Barcelona and for Messi, who is now with Ligue 1 champions PSG. It doesn't look easy, but there is a chance that their paths will cross again.
Messi's relationship with Barcelona President Joan Laporta and his board is not very good, but the fans are excited by the president's comments in the last week.
Although Messi's board and Joan Laporta don't get along very well, the fans are happy at the president's recent remarks. "It is an aspiration that I have as president, and I would like it to happen," Laporta said of Messi's possible return.
"I have been partly responsible for that end, but I consider it provisional. Messi's time at Barcelona did not end as we all wanted it to, it ended up being conditioned by economic factors, and we have a moral debt to him. In that sense, we would like the end of his career to be with Barcelona," he added.
The Argentina captain has a contract with PSG until June 2023, with an option for a further season. He made 33 appearances for the French side last season, scoring 11 goals. While Messi's likelihood of a return to Camp Nou may remain unknown, Barcelona is gearing up for the Robert Lewandowski era.
Ironically, exactly a year after Messi's heart-breaking departure, the La Liga giants presented the former Bayern Munich legend before the start of the 2022-23 campaign on Friday. Even though Lewandowski has played only in three preseason games, thousands of supporters came to Camp Nou to see him introduced as a Barcelona player.
The fact that he entered the field wearing the recognisable number nine shirt may be the most intriguing aspect. Lewandowski wore number 12 during the preseason matches, as Memphis Depay wore the number 9 next season. It appears that the two must have resolved for Lewandowski to take his number.
While that may be the most important information gleaned from Lewandowski's presentation, the excitement stirred up was probably the most astonishing aspect. Lewandowski mimicked club legend Ronaldinho, while juggling the ball and playing to the crowd by balancing it on his lips. Star power certainly seems to be back at Camp Nou.
However, during the Polish superstar's No.9 reveal, few chanted 'Messi, Messi' in an apparent reference that the Argentine club legend is irreplaceable. Although Barcelona fans still rue the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's departure, they would hope for a possible return to give the icon a more fitting farewell. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if Lewandowski can change the fortunes of Barcelona, which is desperate to stamp its authority in European football once again.